A NEED for a national center for manure research
April 30, 2008 by Robynne Anderson
It seems that at this juncture the concept of a national center for manure research has gone into hibernation.
It seems that at this juncture the concept of a national center for manure research has gone into hibernation. An early start at collaboration between the land grant universities in the US provided an opportunity to create a baseline for existing resources in the area of manure management. It was a start to a project that needs more attention and a sharp focus.
Funding requests appear to be stalled for several reasons. There is the need for more private-public sector collaboration on this research. To the credit of industry, there have been some large endowments for research into safe use of manure and management strategies. However, these dollars have rarely been coordinated with public sector funding. Nor have they been coordinated at a national level. Some centers, like North Carolina State University, have received strong regional support.
The federal government has expressed a sentiment that it wants to see more matching dollars and that there is no need for more funding agencies. There is a need for a unified voice that extends beyond the ag engineering community. This is an argument I’ve made before: the need for a multi-sectoral voice to sort out the issues of manure.
I still believe there is a need for farm groups, large-scale producers, processors, environmental specialists, energy interests and land use experts to create council that will offer direction for policy, education, regulatory change and research. That does not diminish the need for a forum to coordinate national research interests.
In fact, a national council is needed in each of Canada and the US, with a link between both. Research coordination could also occur cross border.
Early steps to begin this process, in which I participated, have stalled out and it is time to find a new layer of leadership on manure management issues. The reality is that some attention has been taken off manure as an issue. Animal health and food safety have become focal points of attention. More pressure is also being exerted on assessing nutrient loads as a whole.
In this way, there is an opportunity to work with the mineral fertilizer sector to deal jointly on solutions regarding environmental issues. Although the two sectors have often seen themselves apart, sometimes even at odds as competitors, all agricultural inputs face similar pressures. Partnership could be achieved by a manure council working with shared interests in the fertilizer sector. The fact is environmental reporting in states and provinces across North America is spending more time talking about ammonia and potassium loading than it is the originating source.
So working together on environmental issues will be a great step forward. Following that up with work in a manure council on reducing manure production and alternate uses must still stem from a public-private sector partnership with a mandate and vision to speak out.